The energy minister, Claire Perry, has described shale gas as “entirely consistent” with UK measures to a low-carbon future.
She was responding to a challenge from Labour that shale gas would displace “genuinely low-carbon energy”.
Speaking during a parliamentary debate on Clean Green GB Week, Ms Perry said the UK would “rapidly decarbonise gas”. But she added:
“It seems crazy to me not to soberly explore the science of exploiting a resource beneath our feet that could create thousands of jobs rather than importing it from an extremely unstable nation.”
The shadow business secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, pointed out what she said was a “terrible irony” that the start of Clean Green GB Week coincided with the start of fracking at Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road in Lancashire. She asked:
“How is this compatible with net zero emissions”
Ms Long-Bailey also pointed to the letter to government from the former NASA climate scientist, James Hansen, who urged ministers to withdraw support for fracking. He compared the UK’s shale gas programme to “aping Donald Trump” and “ignoring scientific evidence”.
Meeting climate targets
The Preston Labour MP, Mark Kendrick, in a written question, asked Ms Perry what assessment had been made on the effect of shale gas extraction on the UK’s ability to meet its climate change targets.
The minister said the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) had considered shale gas production at scale could be compatible with carbon budgets if three tests were met.
- Shale gas methane emissions were minimised and monitored
- Gas consumption remained in carbon budget limits
- Additional shale gas emissions offset by reductions elsewhere
Ms Perry said these tests “can and will be met”.
She said the government had asked the CCC for advice on meeting the case made for a 1.5oC limit on warming set out last week by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The CCC should reply by March 2019 Link to letter
Safety and protection for fracking
Mark Menzies, the Fylde MP, whose constituency includes Preston New Road, urged Ms Perry to continue to “put in place the relevant safety measures and environmental protections”.
The minister replied:
“We have the strongest environmental standards in the world when it comes to oil and gas extraction.”
But she added:
“We believe that we may, indeed, need to continue to strengthen them.”
This appears to contradict suggestions that the traffic light system, which regulates induced seismic activity from fracking, could be relaxed.
Debate on Clean Green GB Week
Extract of speech by Rebecca Long-Bailey
Shadow business secretary, Labour
15 October 2018
Shale gas can only be described as low carbon if it replaces coal in the energy mix, but coal is already on its way out of the UK’s energy mix, before fracking has even started. If shale gas were to come online now, it would be displacing genuinely low-carbon energy, not coal. James Hansen, the former NASA scientist known as the father of climate science last week slammed this Government’s decision to pursue fracking as “aping” Donald Trump. What a terrible irony it is that the first day of Green Great Britain Week is the day that fracking is due to commence in Preston. How is this compatible with net zero emissions?
Extract of speech by Claire Perry
Energy minister, Conservative, Devizes
15 October 2018
I find it amazing that so many Labour Front Benchers will take the shilling of the GMB union but will not take its advice on shale gas extraction. They are claiming that this does not create jobs; the union fundamentally disagrees with them. They claim that it is not consistent with a low-carbon future. The Committee on Climate Change has said that it is entirely consistent with our measures. When they go home tonight to cook their tea, I ask them to think about what fuel they are going to use, because we know that 70% of the country relies on gas for cooking and heating. We have a choice. On current projections, we are going to move from importing about half our gas to importing almost 75% of it, even with usage falling, as it needs to going forward.
The challenge on shale is that we do use gas. We want to rapidly decarbonise gas as we will continue to do. This is entirely consistent with all our low-carbon pathways. It is even consistent with the hon. Lady’s proposals for the renewable economy, because she will need 40% of that to come from some sort of thermal generation. It seems crazy to me not to soberly explore the science of exploiting a resource beneath our feet that could create thousands of jobs rather than importing it from an extremely unstable nation.
Extract of speech by Mark Menzies
15 October 2018
I urge my right hon. Friend not to take any lectures from the Labour party when it comes to shale gas, because it was under the Labour party that the current licensing round for the shale gas that is being fracked today was issued. May I urge her to continue to put in place the relevant safety measures and environmental protections, as this Government have done, which were not there when the Labour party issued the licence round?
Extract of response by Claire Perry
15 October 2018
One of the reasons for believing that we can safely extract shale gas is that we have the strongest environmental standards in the world when it comes to oil and gas extraction. We believe that we may, indeed, need to continue to strengthen them.
However, is it not interesting? My hon. Friend has dealt with the brunt of a lot of the protests against the shale site to which we have granted a licence, and I was very disappointed to see Rebecca Long Bailey having a bit of a chit-chat with the protesters without bothering to go into the site to see its potential and the number of jobs that could be created by that vital industry.
Written question on climate change
Question by Mark Hendrick, Labour/Co-operative, Preston
15 October 2018
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what assessment he has made of the effect of shale gas extraction on the UK’s ability to meet its climate change targets.
Reply by Claire Perry
15 October 2018
The Government believes that shale gas has the potential to be a home-grown energy source which can lead to jobs and economic growth, contribute to our security of supply, and help us achieve our climate change objectives.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has considered whether shale gas production at a significant scale can be compatible with the UK’s carbon budgets, and has conducted that it can if certain conditions are met, which they have set out as three “tests”. These are:
- Methane emissions from shale gas production are minimised and monitored.
- Gas consumption remains within carbon budget limits.
- Any additional shale gas emissions are offset by reductions elsewhere in order to meet carbon budgets.
We believe that our robust regulatory regime and determination to meet our carbon budgets mean those tests can and will be met. As such, we welcome the conclusions, and also the CCC’s belief that shale gas could make a useful contribution to UK energy supplies.
We welcome the recent publication of the IPCC’s special report on 1.5ºC. It sets out the strong case for pursing efforts to limiting global warming to 1.5°C, as set out in the Paris Agreement, and reiterates that current global efforts are not enough to meet this unprecedented challenge. The UK’s way forward is set out in the Clean Growth Strategy and we have committed to asking the Committee on Climate Change for advice on our long-term targets in light of this new evidence.